If there is one innovation that has turned our lives upside down, then it is the mobile phone. In the not-so-distant past being contactable was place and time dependent. Nowadays, thanks to mobile phones, your family member, colleague, or customer is never far away. Phone calls, WhatsApp messages and emails keep coming in, which is convenient and tiring.
It was to be expected: the right to disconnect has been a topic for some time now. In the Netherlands there is a law in preparation that regulates that employees have no obligation to respond to their bosses and colleagues after working hours. Germany adopted such a law a few years ago.
There is something to be said for the right to disconnect. It is, literally, not healthy if your holiday is ruined because you are constantly working on project A or taskforce B while you are at the beach. Such a law might help to give you the peace and quiet you long for.
But there is something amiss. After a while I realised what’s wrong with the noble ambition to better separate work and private life.
But aren’t we throwing out the baby with the bathwater with such a hermetic separation? Isn’t it nice that people can organise their lives the way they want thanks to technological possibilities? That they can order groceries during working hours by using a grocery delivery app? That they can help a colleague in their spare time by sending a file he or she urgently needs?
It is not a problem that people are working in their spare time. It is also not a problem that people attend to private matters during working hours. The only possible problem is the risk of imbalance. In that case an employee doesn’t need a law but a good conversation.
And there is another drawback, which relates to the 24-hour economy we have developed. The world is organised around the 24-hour economy and such a new law is like agreeing that from now on rivers will flow from the sea to the mountains. It is a nice thought, but it is impracticable.
Such a law denies the reality. That is most evident in the relationship between contractors and customers. Those customers chose a particular supplier because of a nice product or competitive rates, yet ten to one that those customers particularly value the service. ‘You can always call them,’ a customer says about that supplier.
Which is exactly what customers say about August Bridge.